If you knew me growing up, it's no secret that I was quite possibly one of the pickiest eaters on this planet. When dining out, my restaurant orders went something like this: cheese nachos - hold the lettuce, tomato, onion, sour cream, salsa, olives, jalapeños etc. etc., with a minor (questionable word choice) freakout ensuing when there was a lingering piece of lettuce on there. Or I'd order shrimp scampi, sans shrimp. I couldn't handle it when any two foods on my plate touched. And I wouldn't go near tofu with a ten foot pole, even when my step dad tried to pay me to eat it and I declined (yes, that really happened). Perhaps my dislike for so many foods stemmed from the time my parents forced me, albeit lovingly I am sure, to try sour cream plain on a spoon for the first time. *Cue uncontrollable gag reflex.*
My list of forbidden foods these days is much more curtailed and consists solely of olives, lamb, goat cheese, and blue cheese. I've given all of these foods multiple attempts to make nice with my taste buds, but each time I try one, it takes me back to that sour cream incident. Surprisingly, most of my hated foods growing up are some of my favorites today. Shrimp? Give me extra. Nacho toppings? I'll take 'em all piled high (minus the olives). Sour cream? I enjoy a little dollop with my burrito bowl. GASP.
And tofu? Well, now it's a star on my own very own blog! Funny how things work out.
My stepdad, David, first tried this spicy tofu dish twenty years ago and enjoys it often. He has vouched that in all the times he has made it, not once has it come out poorly. The taste may change slightly each time, but it is consistently delicious. David has been a vegetarian for longer than I have been alive, including a seven year stint as a vegan, so he definitely knows a thing or two about tofu. Oh, and he's an awesome guy, so that automatically increases his credibility!
Now that I've given you "soy" much background, let's turn to the dish! The tofu is named "spicy" for it's abundance of spices - turmeric, dill, basil, thyme, cumin, curry, garlic - rather than indicating a level of heat. The marriage of flavors when combined with the soy sauce and nutritional yeast is unlike any dish I've had before in the best way.
To get the tofu prepped, you'll want to let it drain for approximately 15-20 minutes before dicing it up to yield the best results. My make-shift-tofu-draining contraption was comprised of wrapping the tofu up in a clean dishtowel and topping with a pan (or sheet tray) with a heavy jar for added pressure. If any of you have perfected the art of tofu draining and have some pro tips to offer, let me know HERE!
Once the tofu is drained, you'll want to dice it up. This part is my favorite - something about how smoothly the knife cuts through the tofu, almost like butter, is so strangely satisfying. I know you know what I'm talking about!
Once everything is prepped, the tofu makes the plunge into the pre-heated, oiled pan. Watch out for the splatter! After it's browned, in goes the turmeric and garlic. A few minutes later, add in the rest of the spices. A few minutes after that, soy sauce and nutritional yeast are mixed in. And you're ready to go!
Drooling yet? OK, fine. Maybe you aren't from the pictures because I'm an amateur food photographer and the colors from the dish aren't screaming "PHOTOGRAPH ME!"... BUT I promise the picture does not do the tofu justice.
Check out the full recipe below!
(Editor's Note: The ingredients list below reflects double most spices - turmeric, dill, basil, thyme, cumin and curry - than my stepdad's original recipe calls for. In our household, we like it even "spicier" than he does. If you want to make it the "original" way, only use half of the measurement of those spices listed in this note).
- Oil for frying (we like organic canola)
- 2 lb firm tofu*
- 2 tsp dill weed
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1-2 tsp curry
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 2 to 3 tbsp GF soy sauce*
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup nutritional yeast*
- Wrap tofu in a clean dish towel, applying pressure for 15-20 minutes, so as much moisture as possible can be drawn out.
Cut tofu into small cubes. You'll want to make cuts both lengthwise and widthwise.
In a small dish, mix together the dill, salt, basil, thyme, cumin and curry.
In a pre-heated pan on medium-high, add 3 tablespoons of canola oil (or another high heat oil) to the pan. To make sure it's ready, throw a small piece of tofu into the oil. Once you hear that sweet sizzle, you're ready to go.
CAREFULLY (as oil WILL splatter!), transfer the diced tofu into the pan.
Sauté the tofu and mix occasionally for about 10-15 minutes until all sides begin to brown. Sometimes I prefer to let mine go a little longer, but keep an eye on it to prevent burning. *If you notice more water releasing from the tofu during this step, use a spoon or a baster to carefully remove the liquid.
Lower the heat to medium-low. Sprinkle in the turmeric and fresh garlic. Continue to mix until the turmeric coats all of the tofu, and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add in the spice mixture and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Drizzle in the soy sauce and nutritional yeast. Stir so all ingredients are fully incorporated and allow to cook for a few more minutes.
Time to enjoy! Serve it up over some white or brown rice for a complete meal.
*For all ingredients notated with an asterisk (*), ensure you are carefully reading labels and choosing a safe option, as many brands may have some sort of gluten within the ingredient lists.